Karlie Kloss isn’t quite sure when she first met Thom Browne, but she thinks it may have been after she’d started hosting Project Runway and the designer came on as a guest. Titled “Suit Yourself,” the episode aired in February 2020 and was—as one might imagine—all about suits, a Thom Browne specialty. The challenge of the week was to turn a tuxedo “on its head.”
This past Monday, Kloss attended the 2023 CFDA Fashion Awards as a guest of the designer, who also serves as the council’s chairman. Over the phone the very next day, the model tells me how the two first became friends on the show: “We actually designed that whole episode around him. We built it around his design philosophy and his uniform concept to create a whole challenge.”
Kloss recalls being surprised by Browne’s familiarity with the show (“He knew a lot!”), but also by his graciousness. “I was just so amazed by how thoughtful and caring he was with the different designers on the show. He really wanted to share his wisdom and his career and help them in such a hands-on way,” she says. “It really struck me, to just see what an incredible mentor he is, as well as being an inspiration through just learning from what he’s built.”
So three years later, when the call came to sit at the designer’s table for what those in the biz consider the “Oscars of Fashion,” Kloss immediately said yes.
Many consider Browne’s universe the fashion equivalent of the Island of Misfit Toys. In his world, men wear pleated skirts and women carry bags in the shape of dachshunds (named after his own, Hector). Everyone is a bit of a weirdo, clad in quirky suiting that’s silly instead of stuffy and just as likely to involve a lumpy knit beanie as it is a tie. Which is exactly why it’s funny to think his CFDA table was filled with the likes of Cynthia Erivo, Serena Williams, and Kloss herself. None are the type to be cast as an oddball. (When Kloss mentioned Williams, she called the tennis legend by her real name: “the GOAT!”) But while great and gorgeous and not at all actually strange, the cast of celebrity characters Browne surrounded himself with on Monday made sense because every one of them has real style.
When I asked Kloss how she decided which Thom Browne piece to wear for the evening, she said it came to her when she entered his atelier, which she described as “stepping into his imagination.”
“I tried on couture pieces that he had just shown in Paris; I tried on a couple of ready-to-wear looks. I had like 66 hands helping me get into one of the couture pieces … and then I just slipped on the one that I ultimately wore to the CFDAs, which was actually a menswear piece!” she said. “I really loved the fit. I loved how it was masculine and feminine, with a kind of strong, bold shoulder and the buttons down the back. I was in heaven!”
I was so surprised to hear she was actually wearing menswear that I had to clarify, to which Kloss let out a resounding “Yup!” When I first saw the photos of her from the evening, I couldn’t imagine anyone else but her in the long tunic, which had a parade of buttons marching down her spine and the backs of both arms. But I guess that’s the misfit magic of Thom Browne. He makes pieces for everyone—that somehow also look like they’re designed only for the wearer.
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